Gang, remember Friday's mailbag and to tip the wait staff.
Season in 40 minutes
OK, you're the Tennessee Vols. You've buckled up and pulled down the bar on arguably the SEC's craziest roller coaster of a basketball season in recent memory. You have three players playing at an all-SEC level for the last three weeks, and you are facing a top-five team at home with your slim NCAA hopes resting on the outcome.
This — tonight's 9 p.m. tip between the bubble-craving Vols and the No. 1-seed-searching Florida Gators — is a lot of things. It's appointment TV, since there are very few chances in the marathon and often meaningless march to March that has become college basketball rarely offers truer make-or-break moments for a team. It's the fun chance to see a full house — which Thompson Boling will be — that is rocking with every possession. It's a chance to watch a potential "Moment" game — for the Vols, for their coach, their point guard and their five-star power forward.
So here we are, these Tennessee Vols, winners of five straight to even get into visual range of the bubble, facing the nation's best team not in the Big Ten. It likely can only end one of two ways: Either this is a magical matching of haymakers and Hail Marys, a shootout meets slugfest with a few dance steps in between; or the moment and the magnitude and physical edge that Florida's completeness offers will simply become an avalanche.
We're planning on the former, and here's a mini-checklist for first-half success:
• Trae Golden must play like post-January Trae Golden. As our UT ace Downtown Patrick Brown shares here the funk has been lifted and the strength and solidity that was expected of Golden has returned — and then some.
• Keep the crowd involved. The longer this stays a tight game, the better for the hosting Vols. If Florida sprints to 26-8 lead, well, here's hoping Jimmy Dykes has some interesting anecdotes.
• Jordan McRae has been the league's biggest surprise. Jarnell Stokes has been the league's best frontcourt player in 2013. Golden has return to be being golden. Those things have to continue, of course, against a Florida team that is the league's most balanced 1-through-5. Know what else? The Whiskered Winger, Mr. Skylar McBee, must continue his efficiency that has been essential in this five-game winning streak. McBee is hitting 34.7 percent of his 3-pointers this year (amazingly, McBee shoots 10 percent better OUTSIDE the 3-point line), but he's 10-of-19 (52.6 percent) from beyond the arc in the Vols' recent run. And amazing has not attempted a shot from inside the 3-point line since Feb. 10 against South Carolina. That's knowing your role folks.
This also gives us a good look at how Cuonzo "The Conz" Martin will handle the moment. We're hoping for an enjoyable game.
Numbers do not lie
The defensive front seven guys — defensive linemen and linebackers — took to the drills at the NFL combine on Monday.
And for all the Daytime Soap Opera drama and the fact that Spy now knows the modern definition of Catfishing, the events of Monday were way more damaging professionally than the cyber-dating imaginations and machinations in the world of Manti Te'o. Te'o clocked a 4.82 40 time at 6-foot-1 and 248 pounds. While the 40 times may seem somewhat over-inflated for some positions — name the last time a down lineman or a pocket QB needed to run 40 yards in a quarter, never mind in less than 5 second — defensive back seven guys who are required to cover a lot of ground need respectable 40 times.
We know Te'o struggled mightily against Alabama — easily the fastest team Notre Dame faced all year — the speculation was that Te'o was distracted by the drama about being fooled/fake internet girlfriend scam about to come to light. And that would be completely understandable considering the effects.
Know what else? He may have struggled to keep up with the speed of the game. Here's saying that Te'o passed the interview tests this weekend better than the physical test of Monday, and who could have expected that a month ago?
Let's look at five guys that made some money on Monday by testing well:
• Georgia linebacker Cornelius Washington: Wow, who had any idea Washington was this type of physical freak. Well, our SEC ace David Paschall did. Paschall routinely said that Washington — despite never delivering big-time results — would be the first player off the bus of his team because he looks the part. He runs the part too. On physical gifts alone, Washington delivered first-round numbers. As an outside linebacker, he is 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds. He ran a 4.55 40, posted a 39-inch vertical — which is better than Cordarrelle Patterson, by the way — and benched 225 pounds 36 times. Wow. Talk about testing like Tarzan and playing like Jane, hey Georgia fans what was Cornelius' best moment on the field this year. In truth, Washington was bigger, faster and stronger than Georgia teammate Alec Ogletree. Stunning.
• SMU defensive end Margus Hunt: Speaking of stunning. Sweet Baby Ray's Bar-B-Q sauce this guy moved up every draft board this side of Uncle Sam. Take a look at these measurables: 6-8, 277 pounds with a 4.6 40, 38 reps of 225 pounds on the bench and a 38-inch vertical. Wow. He was the opposite of Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore, who played his way out of the top 15 or so picks with a poor showing.
• Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan: At 6-7 and with great game tape, Jordan's 4.60 40 time jumped him into the top 10 overall picks. This draft class is loaded with difference-making defensive ends.
• LSU defensive Barkevious Mingo: Another guy that acquitted himself well Monday with a 4.58 40. At 6-4 and 241 pounds, Mingo appears slight as a defensive end. You know who else appeared slight as a defensive end a few years ago? DeMarcus Ware. That turned out OK. The Mingo ate your quarterback, baby.
• BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah: He arrived BYU from Ghana with hopes to play basketball and run track. He never made the basketball team so he started playing football in 2010. Read that again. Now know that he's going to be a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft. That's what happens when you are 6-5, 271 pounds with close to a seven-foot wingspan and a 4.63 40 time.
Graham on the go
Jay Graham has taken his talents to Tallahassee. The former record-setting Vols running back and UT running backs coach has left his alma mater reportedly for a job on FSU’s staff.
It happens. people change jobs, even leaving jobs they like at places they love for decisions that are theirs. It’s a business. Period.
Does it hurt? Sure it does because Graham is a top-flight coach and a top-flight recruiter. Does it mean the Vols are cracking at the seams? Hardly.
This is not like the mass exodus of staff that Tennessee had this time a year ago. This is one guy who made a decision to advance his career, his resume and likely his bank account.
The biggest question for Johnny Vols Fans out there should not be why as much as what now? Where will Butch Jones turn and how quickly?
It was one coaching move of a slew of them of late.
UTC added a new DC title to a familiar face. Alabama is reportedly going to hire Billy Napier, the former Murray County High School QB, and Mario Cristobal to an already star-studded staff. Ole Miss reportedly lost their recruiting ace to the NFL.
As much as we love college football and preach about its passion and pageantry, it’s still a BID-ness, and those that do the best work get chances to step up and get promoted.
Like in most areas, sports is one of the true meritocracies we have left.
This and that
— The Patriots have reportedly signed quarterback Tom Brady to a contract extension through 2017. This makes us happy. What's your Rushmore of the best players of the modern generation to spend their entire career with one team: We'll take Duncan, Jeter, Brady and Chipper. Thoughts?
— Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said the dismantling of the team had to happen. Sure it did. We wonder if Loria goes home every night and listens to the "Greed is good" speech from Gordon Gekko before he goes to bed. OK, the team needed to be destroyed, but it was just funny timing that it was destroyed one season after you got a new ball park from the citizens of South Florida. Hmmmmm.
— And the next thing has arrived. Alabama reportedly offered an eighth-grader a football scholarship. This is according to the kid's dad, who could easily have misunderstood or it could be completely legit. Either way, who's going to question the recruiting decisions of Nick Saban. Question the recruiting math if you want — If all of Alabama's 2013 class gets into school, the Tide are projected to be 12 scholarships over the NCAA-mandated 85 limit — but you can not question Saban's recruiting chops. Dude is the Good Will Hunting of recruiting — he can play the game.
The 5-at-10s finished the first season DVD of Homeland on Monday. Very good stuff. Not in the same conversation as The Wire for our money, but still very good stuff. We are already on the hunt for season 2 of Homeland since we are about to get into the TV doldrums. So it goes.
We have two questions for you today: What TV show would you suggest we back track on DVD. There are a lot of options and there are a gaggle with similar ideas about what makes good TV who have recommended Breaking Bad, and that may be the leader in the club house. (Side note: Everyone has that friend or that couple who have a skewed taste of what makes good movies or TV right? You know the ones who will say, "Man, we saw 'Home Alone 4' last night, and it was awesome. You can't even really tell that the Culkin kid is 26... other than the whiskers and the tattoo. You know what else is awesome... Rocky 5. You got rent it. And, heard 'Lincoln' was pretty slow." It makes for a reverse movie review code that in truth is more reliable than actual movie reviews. Strange, huh. "What you haven't seen 'That's My Boy' with Adam Sandler. It's great.")
Anyway, this got us thinking: All of the answers of any "Best of questions..." skew older and that's OK. We get nostalgic and prideful about things we deem ours. That said, what is the Mount Rushmore of the best TV shows of the last 10 years? Discuss.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...